Christa’s post from this past Friday, “5 parenting lessons that will help me in my job,” really struck a chord with me. Years ago, when I was fresh out of college and a newly minted restaurant manager, I had no clue how to manage others. I felt really, really young and inexperienced compared to my more seasoned colleagues and, in many cases, downright terrified, although I tried my hardest not to show it. I looked to them for any sort of guidance as to how to do my job. It took me a while to discover my managerial style—how to praise and discipline while being true to my personality, the best way to lead others towards a common goal, how to handle customer issues with a positive result. I feel like I learned those lessons the hard way; it just looked so effortless for my managerial counterparts. It occurred to me that those of my colleagues who had children at home probably had all sorts of real-life experience to apply to their jobs, and maybe that was the key. I began to approach some managerial situations—disciplinary and otherwise—by looking at them through a lens of “If this were my child, how would I act? How would I want them to act?” Even though, at the time, I was almost ten years away from actually having children of my own, approaching a situation in that way really helped me decide what I thought would be the best way to handle it, and develop authenticity in my own leadership and management style.
Similarly to how Christa can apply five parenting lessons to her work, I know I can apply five work lessons to my parenting, having had those experiences first. Here’s my own list of five:
1) Explain the Why
This was one of the first management lessons I was taught. When explaining policies and procedures, especially new or changed ones, always explain WHY it is happening, or WHY it is necessary or WHY it was changed. Trust me, “because I said so” has just as little success with adults as it does with kids.
2) Create a united front
A fellow manager and I used to joke around that we had “just gotten Mom’d and Dad’d.” The situation: an employee asking for a smoke break. I say no, so they go ask the other manager on duty, hoping for a different response. Sound familiar? Hopefully not with the smoking part, but you understand what I mean. Yes, this type of behavior lasts long into adulthood. If there is a way around a situation, there are those people who are bound and determined to find it. By maintaining a united front among parents or other primary caregivers, kids will hopefully have a structured environment and a fair, even playing field among siblings or playmates. Consistency is key. And, as we like to say at work, don’t let the inmates run the asylum. I repeat, don’t let the inmates run the asylum.
3) Model the behavior
Because “do as I say, not as I do” just never works. When you’re the one in charge, you better believe those in your charge will look to you for how to act. Heck, I did it in those early years, watching my fellow managers. Kids, just as employees, will mimic your behavior. There’s a time to goof off, a time to be serious, and a lot of time in between to have fun while getting the job done. I hope I strike the right balance with my kids when the time comes.
4) Give chances
I’m a three-strikes-you’re-out kind of person. Just because someone makes a mistake doesn’t automatically mean they’re destined to do it again. Life happens. Mistakes are made. There are teachable moments. It’s when someone is wiling or unable to embrace those teachable moments where there becomes the real problem. Three strikes, then you’re out.
5) Address poor behavior the first time, or it becomes the new standard
Similar to my point above, if that first-strike opportunity is ignored rather than addressed right away, there becomes your new standard. It is a lot harder to correct a behavior the second, third or fourth time around when you’ve ignored it the first, second or third time it happened. I used to find it very hard to speak up in the moment and correct bad behavior or a deviation from company policy. But, why? Rules are rules, and they are in place for a reason. Enforce them consistently, or you will forever be rewriting your rulebook. And who has the time or energy for that? Stand your ground!
Am I a perfect manager? No, I am constantly learning and defining my managerial style. Will I be a perfect parent? Lord, no, I have no such delusional expectations. But will I already have some good work lessons to apply to my parenting? Absolutely. Because if I can survive an employee desperately in need of a smoke break after a long and exhausting shift, I’m pretty sure I can survive anything.